Warner Bros. Discovery unveils ‘Max’, enhanced for streaming development

BURBANK, Calif., April 12 – Warner Bros Discovery Inc ( WBD.O ) said on Wednesday it will launch its long-awaited new streaming service dubbed “Max” on May 23, combining HBO Max’s scripted entertainment with Discovery’s reality shows.

The service seeks to expand its reach beyond devotees of HBO’s acclaimed and raunchy shows by combining unscripted fare and children’s programming.

Writer J.K. It will mine the studio’s rich library of content to create high-quality programming, including a new series based on Rowling’s Harry Potter books and another prequel to the popular fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”

Warner Bros., Walt Disney Co ( DIS.N ) and other media companies are trying to strike the right balance between spending on new programming to attract and retain subscribers and generate profits.

Shares of Warner Bros. Discovery plunged nearly 6%, part of a broader decline in streaming stocks after critical comments from legendary investor Warren Buffett.

“It’s not really a good business,” Buffett said on CNBC television. People who work in entertainment “make a lot of money, and the partners don’t really do that well over time”.

Buffett is also an investor in Paramount Global, which fell 3% on Wednesday. Disney fell 2.5% and Netflix fell 2%.

The new “Max” service will serve as a test of CEO David Zasla’s ambition to build one of the world’s leading streaming services by assembling a diverse collection of properties, from the Barefoot Contessa cooking show to Batman.

“This is our time, this is our opportunity,” Zaslau said during a presentation on the Warner Studio lot in Burbank, California. “I feel for our company, this is our meeting with destiny.”

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Prices for Max range from $9.99 per month for the ad-supported version to $19.99 per month for “Max Ultimate.” One tier would retain HBO’s current maximum price of $15.99 a month — a strategy that has won praise from one media analyst.

“By keeping prices the same, except for the new premium tiers, there’s no reason for anyone to skip,” Bank of America media analyst Jessica Reiff Ehrlich said. “You get many times the content for the same price.”

Zaslav said Discovery’s unscripted programming will bring HBO’s “same kind of storytelling” to the service for subscribers.

Warner Bros. has dropped “HBO” from the name of its Discovery streaming service, which suggests a bespoke series to some viewers but repels others.

Head of Global Streaming JP Perrett said that “HBO is HBO” and “shouldn’t be pushed to the breaking point” by taking over the variety of content that HBO and Discovery offer.

“We want to go broader and we think we can compete with the biggest players in the space,” Perrett said.

The service will feature HBO content including the multi-Emmy Award-winning drama series “Heir” and the hit video-game adaptation “The Last of Us.”

New topics

It will feature several new titles based on popular franchises, including “The Penguin,” a series based on the DC Comics villain, a new comedy series based on the hit CBS show “The Big Bang Theory” and a new installment of the “Fixer Upper” home improvement franchise. , “Fixer Upper: The Hotel.”

CEO Zaslav has said that Warner Bros. films will enjoy a traditional theatrical release and reap box office revenue before they are available on a streaming service.

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The opportunity to capitalize on the streaming video revolution is one of the justifications for combining Discovery and WarnerMedia in 2022.

But by the time the deal closed in April of last year, Wall Street’s enthusiasm for streaming had begun to wane, as Netflix ( NFLX.O ) reported its first loss of subscribers in more than a decade. Investors began prioritizing profits over subscriber gains, which caused a new austerity across Hollywood.

Like other media companies, Warner Bros. Discovery has yet to turn a profit on its HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming services, although the company has narrowed losses from them.

It has set a target of 130 million subscribers by 2025, far short of Netflix’s 231 million subscribers.

Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Tiyashi Datta in Bangalore; Editing by Arora Ellis and Sonali Paul

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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